One of first the phrases you hear from doctors when you’re 45 and pregnant is “Advanced Maternal Age”. It’s not a phrase that invokes the warm and fuzzies. In fact, it sort of took the wind out of my sails. A gentle tap on my shoulder and a whisper of “Hey, you’re a bit up there in age. You know that, right?” In fact, you’re considered Advanced Maternal Age once you’re over 35…I was 45! Which meant I was automatically considered high risk, and that landed me at Desert Perinatal Associates four weeks after I confirmed my pregnancy. Now I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that there is a bit of anxiety attached to being pregnant for the first time. I had many sleepless nights during that four week period because I was terrified something would go wrong. Needless to say, by the time I got to the appointment I was on pins and needles. I called my Mom, who was on her way to the appointment, to distract me while I waited, but my name was called literally minutes later. She stayed on the phone with me and listened until she got there.
Meeting the Genetic Counselor
Before I saw my high risk doctor, I met with a genetic counselor. She was pleasant and smiley and seemed genuinely excited for me. There was a bit of small talk before we got down to business. She explained that women are born with all of the eggs we’re ever going to have. We don’t generate new eggs and as we age the viability of the eggs drops. The likelihood of conception also drops. If you do beat the odds and conceive, there is a higher the risk of something going wrong. Most commonly, Down Syndrome or Trisomy 21, caused by an error in cell division that results in an extra copy of chromosome 21. After we briefly went over the other less common Trisomy disorders, she explained that I had a 5% chance of having a baby with one of these defects. This is the moment when I knew I was in the right place. Rather than leave me with that, she said “But that also means that there is a 95% chance that your baby is absolutely fine. We’re just going to run a few tests to make sure.” I instantly felt better.
Next she went through all of my options for genetic testing. There are a number of options for genetic testing. I won’t cover them all here, but I’ve left a link to an article below. She recommended that we start with the noninvasive options and hopefully there wouldn’t be a need for further testing. I opted for that route, because anything that had the slightest risk of miscarriage was out of the question for me. I was to have an NT Scan that measures the fluid at the back of the baby’s neck, and a blood test that checked my baby’s DNA. Bonus! That particular blood test would also reveal the gender of my baby! Sadly, I would have to wait another four weeks to get both tests. Great.
Once we were done, she gave me a smiley congratulations and I was back in the lobby to wait my turn to see the doctor. My mom, who was waiting for me in the lobby, had been in the meeting via “conference call”, just looked at me and said “I heard all of that.” I don’t even know if I responded to her. My head was so full of information and silent cries of “Oh my God, I hope my baby is okay! Please let my baby be okay!” There wasn’t much time to agonize though, in just another few minutes, my name was called again.
Seeing and Hearing My Baby for the First Time
We followed a friendly nurse down the hall and she led us into our room. This room was equipped with the standard equipment doctors use to view our lady bits. There was also a TV screen on the wall and a sign forbidding me to record anything. My blood pressure was checked and then I was instructed to empty my bladder and undress from the waist down. It still hadn’t occurred to me that I was going to have an ultrasound. Two nurses entered the room. One asked questions, while the other one started working on the machine next to the bed. Once I was done answering questions, the nurse next to me said “Okay. Let’s take a look at baby.” Minutes later, I watched as my tiny baby showed up on the screen. She looked like a little bean! With tears in my eyes, I said, “I don’t believe it. Hi, baby.” My Mom, always with the comic relief, said, “Make sure there’s just one.” Have I mentioned how much I adore my mother? After we finished laughing, the nurse confirmed that there was definitely one little nugget. She then treated us to the sound of my baby’s heart beating. I mean, I could see the little heart beating on the screen, but hearing it for the first time was indescribable. That’s the moment it finally sunk in that I was actually pregnant. In that moment, I wasn’t worried or scared or nervous. I was too busy falling in love with my baby. I stared in awe at the screen while her measurements were taken. The nurse confirmed that I was nine weeks pregnant and my due date was December 9, 2016. She printed two sets of pictures, one for me and one for my Mom, and that was it. It was time to get dressed and wait for the doctor.
Good Doctors Make All The Difference
When Dr. Sean Keeler finally made his appearance it was just like meeting Dr. Gex for the first time. I was immediately at ease. He was informative. He gave me a rundown of what to expect going forward. He told me what to expect at my next appointment. He asked if I had any questions, but I’m sure I didn’t at the time. I don’t think I really had the presence of mind to formulate a question by then. Dr. Keeler was calm, reassuring, and patient. He gave me some instructions on how to monitor my blood pressure. Surprisingly, he told me I was in good hands with Dr. Gex, which was the same thing Dr. Gex said about Desert Perinatal. I was assured that we all had the same goal, that at end of this pregnancy there was to be a beautiful healthy baby. I felt safe. Considering that I’d been a tight ball of nerves when I walked into the appointment, that was no small feat. I left that appointment feeling happy. I was confident that I had the right team of doctors to see me through the process. If I’m honest, however, there was still the slightest twinge of nerves. The cloud of genetic testing was looming as I went home to wait out the four weeks until I could be tested…
Parting Advice and Links
A first pregnancy is ripe with anxiety at any age. If you’re like me, pregnant for the first time in your mid-40’s, the best advice I can give you is to make sure you feel safe with your doctors, and by extension, their staff. You will be spending a lot of time with them over the course of 40 weeks and it will go along way to relieving some of the stress you will inevitably go through during this time. I found myself looking forward to my appointments, because it was one of the few times when I was completely at peace and not worried about my baby. The waiting is not easy, it helps to have something else to focus on. For me that was work. It also helps to have supportive people around who can make you laugh and distract you.
That’s it! Until the next post!